The Korea Herald


[Editorial] A deplorable ride

Lawmaker uses emergency medical vehicle like taxi service

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 26, 2022 - 05:30

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The act of using the deadly Oct. 29 Itaewon crowd surge for political gain deserves condemnation. Investigation is underway and the National Assembly launched a probe to uncover the truth and figure out ways to prevent similar disasters. In this respect, the belatedly revealed act of Shin Hyun-young, a National Assembly member of the majority opposition Democratic Party of Korea, is not only deplorable, but also needs to be investigated.

Shin resigned Tuesday as a member of the special Assembly committee to look into the disaster. Her resignation came a day after she faced criticism for causing emergency medical staff to arrive late at the site by making an emergency doctor vehicle pick her up near her home on the way to the scene.

She argued that she had thought she could be helpful at the scene as a former doctor. However, she resigned as public opinion worsened.

The disaster medical assistance team of Myongji Hospital in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, stopped near Shin's house in Mapo-gu, Seoul, before arriving at the scene of the accident at 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 30. She had asked the team to pick her up on the way to the site.

She reportedly paid a call to the hospital‘s disaster hotline connected to the National Emergency Medical Center. The hotline was established to immediately receive orders from the center. Its number was not disclosed to the general public, but Shin found it by calling the center, which is said to have been compelled to let her know without expecting her to actually use it. The Myongji emergency doctors’ team is said to have assumed she had gotten permission from the center, given that her call came through the hotline. She was a family physician at the hospital before becoming a lawmaker.

It was also found that the vehicle had picked up her husband as well.

Shin said one more doctor on the scene would help. Her husband is a dentist. But the scene where 158 people, mostly young women, were pressed to death in a packed alley, did not need the help of a dentist.

Shin is said to have stayed at the site for about 15 minutes then left for the National Medical Center, this time riding in the official vehicle of the health and welfare minister. Originally, the minister, the first vice minister and the head of the office for health care policy were reportedly scheduled to ride together to the situation room at the medical center, but the first vice minister gave up his seat for her.

Shin uploaded photos and a video on social media with a post “for the record of the tense situation at the accident site. Been here as a member of a disaster medical assistance team.” Her husband is said to have taken the photos. No photos show her performing CPR or some other useful action. Among the 14 emergency ambulances that rushed to the site, only the one that picked up the Shins is said to have just stood by, doing nothing before leaving. When it arrived, staff from the other ambulances were busy applying first aid.

People cannot but ask if Shin used the emergency vehicle for political propaganda. Ambulances have no time to lose and need to arrive at the scene quickly.

The special National Assembly committee probing the Itaewon crowd surge was created at the prodding of the Democratic Party. The party selected Shin as a member of the committee, considering she has been at the site of the accident. After she resigned, it said it would replace her with another lawmaker, but there was no word of apology for her inappropriate conduct. She has also maintained her silence after resigning.

An ambulance must be used to transport medical staff quickly to the scene. She has no right to hitch a ride. If she wanted to help, she should have gone directly from her home. The parliamentary panel should deal with issues like this, and bereaved families must be furious. A civic group accused her of violating the Emergency Medical Service Act. She must be held accountable.